Legislation

California Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act (Proposition 47)

Each shade represents a 10% difference in the vote. (link)

The Safe Neighborhoods And Schools Act is a California statute adopted by ballot initiative as Proposition 47 of 2014. The legislation was intended to reduce the number of prisoners in California prisons by reclassifying some nonviolent crimes from felonies to misdemeanors. The legislation also allowed those who are already serving time in prison or have already been convicted to petition a court to retroactively reduce their sentence to a misdemeanor.

Critics of the act blame the law for an increase in theft. The law has also been blamed for contributing to California’s homelessness problem.

Proposition 47 reduced penalties for certain nonviolent property and drug crimes. It also allowed prisoners who have been previously convicted of these crimes to petition for reduced sentences. The savings from the legislation were to be placed into programs to support truancy prevention, mental health, substance abuse treatment, and victim services. [1]

Among the penalties and laws that were changed were:[2]

  • Grand theft of property worth less than $950 was now always to be charged as a misdemeanor.
  • Shoplifting of property worth less than $950 was now always to be charged as a misdemeanor.
  • Receiving stolen property worth less than $950 was now always to be charged as a misdemeanor.
  • Most cases of writing bad checks worth less than $950 were now going to be charged as misdemeanors.
  • Check forgery worth less than $950 was to be charged as a misdemeanor.
  • Drug possession for personal use of most drugs would be a misdemeanor.

The legislation also gave prisoners who were serving felony sentences for those offenses to apply to have their sentences reduced to misdemeanors. Prisoners who also served time for offenses that were previously felonies could apply to have their felony convictions retroactively reduced to misdemeanors. [3]

The legislation required the estimated savings to be transferred from the general fund into a new fund called the Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Fund. The money would be distributed with 25% for reducing truancy, 10% for victim services grants, and 65% for mental health and drug treatment. [4]

Election

Proposition 47 appeared on the November 2014 ballot. Left-progressive criminal justice and most labor union interests in the state, including the ACLU, the Open Society Policy Center, and the California Labor Federation supported the measure; opponents included the California District Attorneys’ Association, California State Sheriffs’ Association, and the California Retailers Association. [5] The legislation passed 59.6% to 40.4%. [6]

Aftermath

The legislation has led to some unintended consequences for California’s drug courts. Instead of going through the 18-month drug court program, offenders opted to take the new lower sentences. Previously, drug offenders would utilize the drug court program instead of serving a felony prison sentence. The increased barriers have made it more difficult for drug courts to target the early-stage abusers that the program was intended to help. [7]

Both police and the retail industry have claimed the law has led to an increase of “grab and dash” thefts where groups of people rush in a store and grab handfuls of merchandise. They believe that since the penalties have been reduced, the criminal laws no longer serve as a deterrent. [8]

President of the California Police Chiefs Association Ronald Lawrence blames the law for increasing homelessness and drug addiction. He says the law removes the mechanisms for people to get help with their mental health and drug problems. [9]

References

  1.            “Proposition 47 Analysis | Official Voter Information Guide | California Secretary Of State”. 2020. Internet Archive. Accessed June 29. http://web.archive.org/web/20140908180059/http://voterguide.sos.ca.gov/en/propositions/47/analysis.htm. ^
  2.      “Proposition 47 Analysis | Official Voter Information Guide | California Secretary Of State”. 2020. Internet Archive. Accessed June 29. http://web.archive.org/web/20140908180059/http://voterguide.sos.ca.gov/en/propositions/47/analysis.htm. ^
  3. “Proposition 47 Analysis | Official Voter Information Guide | California Secretary Of State”. 2020. Internet Archive. Accessed June 29. http://web.archive.org/web/20140908180059/http://voterguide.sos.ca.gov/en/propositions/47/analysis.htm. ^
  4. “Proposition 47 Analysis | Official Voter Information Guide | California Secretary Of State”. 2020. Internet Archive. Accessed June 29. http://web.archive.org/web/20140908180059/http://voterguide.sos.ca.gov/en/propositions/47/analysis.htm. ^
  5. “California Proposition 47, Reduced Penalties for Some Crimes Initiative (2014).” Ballotpedia. Accessed July 21, 2020. https://ballotpedia.org/California_Proposition_47,_Reduced_Penalties_for_Some_Crimes_Initiative_(2014). ^
  6. Statement Of Vote. 2014. Ebook. Sacramento, CA: California Secretary of State. https://elections.cdn.sos.ca.gov/sov/2014-general/pdf/2014-complete-sov.pdf. ^
  7. Tuttle, Kimberly. 2019. “California Prop 47’s Unintended Consequences For Drug Court Programs”. Claremont Journal Of Law And Public Policy. https://5clpp.com/2019/04/06/californias-prop-47s-unintended-consequences-for-drug-court-programs/. ^
  8. Watts, Julie. 2019. “Organized Retail Theft On The Rise; Cops Blame Prop 47, Safe Neighborhoods Law”. CBS Sacramento. https://sacramento.cbslocal.com/2019/09/25/grab-and-dash-thefts-rise-police-blame-law/. ^
  9. Russell, Ramona. 2020. “How Prop. 47 Fueled The Homeless Epidemic”. California Globe. https://californiaglobe.com/section-2/how-prop-47-fueled-the-homeless-epidemic/. ^
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